Sun, Jul 18, 2004 - Page 5 News List

N Korea denies entering South's waters

DISPUTED BORDER Pyongyang dismissed a claim that a North Korean patrol boat entered South Korea's territory, saying none of its vessels were in the area at the time

AFP , SEOUL

Pyongyang said yesterday a South Korean allegation that a North Korean patrol boat had intruded into its territorial waters was a "sheer lie" designed to provoke a military confrontation.

South Korea's defense ministry has said the North Korean vessel intruded into South Korean waters near Yeonpyeong Island at 07:40 GMT on Wednesday, ignoring warnings from a South Korean navy ship.

The vessel left shortly after a South Korean ship fired two rounds of cannon shots into the air, it said.

But North Korea's navy countered yesterday that the allegations were false, saying none of its vessels had crossed the disputed maritime boundary at the time mentioned by the South Korean military or even been in the area.

In a statement the Navy Command of the [North] Korean People's Army accused the South of spreading misinformation to mislead the pubic opinion.

"In a word, the South Korean army's much publicized `case of intrusion' by a patrol boat of the North side is nothing but a sheer lie and a deceptive farce," it said.

It said this "improper behavior" ran counter to a landmark accord reached between the Koreas last month to ease tension on the Cold War's last frontier.

Under the accord, South and North Korean navies are supposed to open radio contact along the disputed sea border in the Yellow Sea to prevent accidental clashes.

"This cannot but be construed otherwise than a sinister aim to persistently insist on the bogus `Northern Limit Line' drawn by foreign forces and incite the North-South confrontation," the North Korean navy said.

North Korea has never accepted the Northern Limit Line, unilaterally drawn by the US-led UN after the end of the Korean War in 1953, and calls for a new maritime border to be drawn up.

"If the South Korean army persists in its military provocations, misjudging the changed situation, it will entail irretrievable serious consequences," the North Korean navy said.

The South Korean defense ministry on Friday retracted an earlier report that said the North Korean navy failed to respond to multiple radio messages sent by South Korean ships before the warning shots were fired.

It said the North Korean side had in fact responded to the calls and sent three radio messages to the South Korean navy, including one saying: "The boat now sailing to the South is a Chinese fishing boat."

South Korean media quoted an unidentified military source as saying that the South Korean ships might have mistaken the Chinese fishing boat poaching there for a North Korean patrol boat.

President Roh Moo-Hyun called for a thorough investigation to determine if there was any attempt by the South Korean military to cover up the fact that the North had actually responded to the radio calls from the South.

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